The following post is by NCTE Vice President Jocelyn Chadwick and is part of a series she is writing about NCTE’s Legacy of Pride.
NO organization on the planet survives without the strength, the momentum, the energy, the passion, the commitment, and, most important, the belief of its people. In the case of NCTE, this is our full membership. From businesses to professions to personal hobbies and pursuits to government (local and Federal), the concepts of organize, organizations, members, and membership have loomed large. NCTE is no different in this respect, and yet . . . We are different, even unique, because we are ELA teachers—all striving to follow a passion and a vocation for students preK–graduate school.
With this difference and uniqueness in mind, July’s and August’s Legacies of Pride are focusing on members and membership. STOP! This LOP is decidedly not a membership solicitation. Rather, this LOP is a celebration—a celebration of you, and a celebration of all of us. Without all of its members—all of us—there would be no National Council of Teachers of English. Because we have so many members, because we are all so very busy, and because as ELA teachers, we rarely think of ourselves—the hours we work in and outside of school, the hours we spend as lifelong learners, the efforts we make to engage all of our students, our efforts with parents, administrators, officials, etc.—we don’t even have the time to think about anyone’s appreciating us or thanking us. And, as sometimes happens with close relationships, the involved individuals don’t say thank you to each other, as we should, for we are always thinking about others—especially, our students.
In the spirit of the purpose and rationale for NCTE’s Legacy of Pride, July’s LOP celebrates our affiliates and section steering committees. August will celebrate our membership at large.
Affiliates: This term, as a verb and noun, according to the OED is an old one within the context of NCTE’s affiliates, dating to as early as the 18th century. The terms most strikingly cited to explicate affiliation and affiliate are adhere to, belong to, be a part of something. The earliest affiliates with NCTE began in 1911, with the president, James F. Hosic, himself a member of the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, founded in 1907 (Hook, 15). Hosic emphasized this necessity: “. . . national and local, state, or regional associations of English teachers were important” (Hook, 15). Hosic’s philosophy and vision of NCTE and NCTE’s affiliates were of a symbiotic or interdependent relationship, focused on students:
The intention was to create a representative body, which could reflect and render effective the will of the various local associations and of individual teachers, and, by securing concert of action, greatly improve the conditions surrounding English work . . . (Hook, 16).
To date, NCTE is 105 years old. Ever-changing audiences and technology have affected how our organization’s continued presence and relevance are conveyed today. Now, ELA teachers such as myself first hear of NCTE through our postsecondary English departments. As an English and drama major, I was required to join NCTE and my Texas affiliate, as were my fellow English majors. Professors espoused with eagerness and with a sense of urgency the rationale for this requirement.Before becoming vice president, I maintained my affiliation with the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE); since that time, however, I have met many of NCTE’s affiliate family via email, e-cards, texts, and in person—both teachers and students, beginning in summer 2015. Amazing and “ready-to-work” people such as Julia Torres, Diane Bondurant, Julie Rucker, Curtis Bobbitt, Kim Parker, Kristin Comment, Amy Rasmussen, Vivian Vasquez, Katherine Nelson, and Dixie Keyes, as well as student members, are but a few I have had the honor and privilege to meet.
What always strikes me as wonderfully energizing and spirited is the unending movement and immersive collaboration engendered by our members in the affiliates. And I am constantly struck by the notion of “Why haven’t we talked more before?” “What has taken us so long to connect?” NCTE’s affiliates are a powerhouse within this nucleus, or representative body, as Hosic describes it. We need each other, for together we are strong and focused. So, thanks to each of you in the affiliates. We are one, and because we are one, we should know each other far better than we do! Technology is decidedly our friend.
Sections: If the affiliates, according to Hosic, make up the body of NCTE, four groups form the hard skeleton of our membership, informing, encouraging, creating, and sustaining the mission of NCTE—the section steering committees: Elementary, Middle Level, Secondary, and College. First convening in 1912 as three groups, the perception of and the necessity for the three sections were viewed as “. . . the strength of the organization [because of] its provision of programs, publications, and committees dedicated to the dissimilar needs of the three groups of teachers [elementary, secondary, college]” (Hook, 26–27).
These section steering committees have evolved into the “movers and shapers” of the entire membership. They, along with the editors of the section journals (Language Arts, Voices from the Middle, English Journal, and College English), with several others, reflect the thoughts, hopes, ideas, frustrations, and goals of ELA teachers, while at the same time providing a constant stream of pedagogical resources and dialectical conversations. These committees also aid the executive committee and executive director in initiatives and strategies—all designed to be stalwart resources and stanchions for our membership. The current steering section members follow:
Elementary: Theodore Kesler, Kathy Collins, Ann Marie Corgill, Julia Lopez-Robertson, Prisca Martens, Detra Price-Dennis, Dinah Volk, Kathryn Whitmore
Middle: Matthew Skillen, James Blasingame, Jason Griffith, Amy Gutierrez Baker, Shanetia Clark, Christopher Lehman, Laurie Sullivan, Shelbie Witte
Secondary: Katie Greene, Tara Seale, Anne Marie Quinlan, Courtney Morgan, Janet Atkins, Lawrence Butti, Janis Mottern-High, April Niemela
College: Clancy Ratliff, Asao B. Inoue, Isabel Baca, Rochelle (Shelley) Rodrigo, Beth Godbee, Steven Alvarez, Mya Poe, Jacqueline Rhodes
Too numerous to list here, however, are our past section steering committee members. It has been and always will be the lighted paths you established and left in such a way that those coming after you could see clearly and scaffold onto what you created to move our membership forward. For further documented information about the section committees, see Erika Lindemann’s Reading the Past, Writing the Future, Appendix D, 449–62.
What binds NCTE, the representative body, NCTE affiliates, and NCTE section steering committees lies with the sixteen “concerning ideas” Hosic and W. Wilbur Hatfield identified in 1936 (Hook, 20–21). Among the sixteen, a few are worthy of noting in light of our celebrating affiliates and section steering committees:
• Work to ‘diminish insularity’ among teachers of English
• Help to articulate elementary and secondary school studies
• Stress both ‘Culture ’ and ‘Efficiency’ as aims of teaching [emphasis mine]
• Advocate ‘power in writing and speaking’ as the basis for student promotion
• Help teachers adapt content and methods to individual classes
• Stress the humanities
• Continued work toward improved college entrance requirements
NCTE’s work continues, must continue. That continuance, however, devoid, bereft of the required interdependency early progenitors of our organization put into motion and wrote into the constitution, would necessarily imperil our work, our profession, and our students’ lifelong literacy.
Hook, J. N. A Long Way Together: A Personal View of NCTE’s First Sixty-Seven Years (Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1979).
Lindemann, Erika, ed. Reading the Past, Writing the Future: A Century of American Literacy Education and the National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2010).